Interview by The BitUk
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Interview by The BitUk

I was recently interviewed by the scrumcious Sarah Skillin from The BitUk and here is the final copy…

Interview with Hannah Freeland

Hannah Freeland – the photographer behind the iconic Pol Roger and Land Rover shoot at Burghley and so many truly touching equine photographs.  So who better to turn to when you need some advice regarding selecting new brand ambassadors.   Hannah helped us make our final selection of brand ambassadors and guided us on attributes to look for in people to represent us and work with us. We first met Hannah at Badminton 2015 at a picnic with Pol Roger whilst supporting Laura Collett, and she certainly was as bubbly as the champagne!

Han-in-RiverWe caught up with Hannah to learn a little more about life as a leading equestrian photographer, life behind the lens and working with some of world’s greatest equestrians.

What made you want to be an equine photographer?

I have always ridden and had horses, but only as a pony club girl and happy hacker. As I got older I didn’t have the nerve to compete but was fascinated by Eventing and the push and bravery of those who did.

I also lived my life looking through a lens. Starting with my grandfathers and father’s old cameras, winding them up and pushing the boundaries (well I thought I was pushing the boundaries back then), having the films processed and being thrilled with the final images. Discovering which mistakes I had made and holding precious moments that I had managed to capture.

As I grew older and tried my hand at various job careers and roles my true love always came back to photography. I would often find myself offering to photograph a friend’s party, hunt meet or drinks reception for practice and so I could see their face when I produced the images after the event.

Then 5 or 6 years ago a great friend of mine, who has always believed in my photography, put me in touch with one of the most fantastic equine photographers and mentors in the world to have my work assessed. With shaking knees and sweaty palms, I awaited her verdict. As she looked through my portfolio, which I had painstakingly created, she looked up and said “Yup, you’ve got it, whatever IT is, you have it, now I need to harness it”. After that I have specialised and focused on Equine Photography and all aspects of it.

What is your favourite type of photography?

That’s a hard question, as my honest answer is all of them! However, I suppose I should admit that the private commissions are a fraction in front. Capturing the love and affection between a magnificent animal and their owner is truly something special. Being allowed to be part of that friendship, even for a few hours is a privilege. I absolutely adore the entire process of a private commission, from the initial phone calls and planning, to the shoot itself, while I turn my hand to stylist, groom, location scout as well as photographer all the way through to the private viewing that invariably brings tears of joy and wonderful memories of our day together. There is nothing better than seeing a large print of your work, framed in your client’s home for them to love for years to come.

However, capturing Badminton 2014 behind the scenes with Harry Meade and Wild Lone will never be beaten. I suppose my favourite type of photography is capturing the scenes others don’t see in a beautiful way, so they don’t only see the scene, but live and feel it.

And as if we really need to ask, but what was Hannah’s most favourite shoot to be part of?

Apart from the 3 seasons I have spent with Harry Meade Eventing, at home shoots with my idols such as Mary King and William Fox-Pitt and my countless private commissions I think it has to be the Pol Roger 2015 advert that we created together. This was capturing Harry Meade and Laura Collett looking post cross country and enjoying a glass of Pol Roger in the Burghley Estate grounds in front of Pol’s iconic Land Rover.

Most entertaining moment on a shoot?

I’m known for getting into or on top of things to get the shot I’m looking for and this has found me lying in puddles for the right perspective, on top if muck heaps when needed and holding hay in one hand while shooting with the other. However, whilst shooting for Pol Roger at Burghley, we decided to capture ‘Polly the Land Rover’ in the Burghley lake. Not a problem for me, I wacked off my boots and as it was a scorcher of a day I had no problem wading into the water and under the bridge to get the shot we wanted. I then went back across the lake to get Polly from the other side with Burghley Estate in the background under the bridge, however after my third stride into the water I sank… quickly! The ground was very soft mud and the water went way above my waist. I thrust my camera in the air and shouted for help, thank fully Rosie Meade came to the rescue, of course after snapping the moment on her phone for keepsakes.

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Who would you most like to photograph?

I would love the opportunity to photograph Princess Haya, at home, in jeans with her horses totally relaxed.  I want to capture a side that the public haven’t seen before. I would also like to photograph Princess Anne and Zara Tindall together, again very chilled and at home with their horses.  I am trying to create a shoot in Canada with big American style barns, full of horses and lots of snow.

Any events you have never been to (to photograph) and would put on the bucket list?

The Olympics has to be at the top and I would also love to photograph at The Rolex Kentucky three day event.

And some tips and thoughts around being a brand ambassador and working with sponsors…

You are well known to do a lot with two of the best ambassadors of British Eventing (Harry & Laura), what would you say makes them such fantastic ambassadors?

The time, knowledge and engagement they give their brands and audience. Both Harry and Laura are very approachable, neither of them look as though “I don’t have time”. Pol-Roger-Casual-and-Fun

They are so aware of what it takes to become as successful as they are and the hard work that’s involved. If someone wants to ask questions and gain insight they are happy to share their experiences. They are both hugely respected, not only by the public but by the other competitors.

Personally having worked with them, they make you feel welcome, involved and included in whatever they are doing. Harry’s team always introduce me as part of the family, which is how I feel.

If you were looking for a brand ambassador what qualities would you look for?

Engagement and how they conduct themselves on and off the eventing ground. The problem with so many media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is that if you have too many stroppy moments, to many nasty things to say about other people you will quickly turn your audience off. No one wants to buy or trust a brand recommendation from someone they don’t respect.

An ambassador needs to get audiences not only liking them but linking that likeness and respect to the brands they represent. This works both ways. Ambassadors should work hard for their brands, but their brands should support and promote their riders just as much.

An ambassador should only work with brands they truly believe in, if you do, then the work is easier. You are simply recommending a product you use and are working with friends.

Having worked with some outstanding ambassadors what tips would you give some of the younger riders looking to follow in their footsteps?

Always give your time to those who ask for it, as long as they are asking for genuine reasons.  Make sure you represent your best self when you can be seen and heard.  You need to acknowledge and thank the people who help you rise to the top, that’s what family, partners, friends, owners, sponsors and staff do. Without them, none of us would get very far.

Hard work and effort in something you have a passion for will go a very long way. People are drawn to genuine people who are engaged, pleasant and smile.